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13 January, 2011

Conservative Peer: without citizenship education we will have a small society

Conservative Peer Professor Lord Norton of Louth, speaking at a Democratic Life event on Wednesday, 12 January at the House of Commons, said that 'citizenship [education] is a prerequisite for a big society. Otherwise we will have a small society'. The event was an opportunity for the audience of MPs, Peers, civil society organisations, teachers and pupils to discuss the future of citizenship education and how they can influence the upcoming review of the National Curriculum. Former Secretary of State for Education David Blunkett MP, a head teacher and a deputy head also spoke at the event, which was compered by BBC presenter Sophie Long. Following the speeches students gave their views on the impact of citizenship education, which is the only subject in the National Curriculum that teaches about the way democracy, politics, the economy and the law work.

In 2002 as Secretary of State for Education David Blunkett MP was responsible for introducing citizenship education as a statutory subject at key stages 3 and 4. At the reception he said, ‘we introduced citizenship 10 years ago to ensure we had a future of politically literate, well briefed and responsible adult citizens, who could not only contribute to society but make it better.' He went on to say that citizenship education is ‘vital' if society wants young people to know how to demonstrate and protest ‘without dropping fire extinguishers', alluding to the recent university fees protests.

Tom, a student from Newvic College, London said, ‘citizenship is one of, if not the, most important lessons; it's about us in the big wide world...lessons that will stay with us forever.'

Democratic Life is a coalition of organisations and individuals committed to strong and effective citizenship education. The event ‘The Future of citizenship education: transforming our schools and communities, strengthening our democracy' was sponsored by The Co-Operative Group. Democratic Life held the event to explore citizenship education's future under the Coalition Government, and highlight its unique position in England's National Curriculum: it is the only subject that teaches students about their rights and responsibilities as citizens - and how they can participate effectively in society - by developing their understanding of politics, democracy, the law and the economy.

The Citizenship Foundation is a founding partner of Democratic Life and played a key role in organising the reception.
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